What do you do again?

So what do you do exactly? I get that question often! Today I am going to try to give a little overview of what I do. There can be a little confusion when a client wants me to make something that can’t really be done the way they are envisioning with linocut. Some examples being- resizing current prints (Digital) or tiny typesetting for invitations (Letterpress) or just very personal customization like changing names or images.

Here to clear a little of that up: I am a Linocut Block Printer. I hand sketch the design, then use sharp tools to hand carve that sketch into a block, and that block is used to hand print the image using ink and pressure. Once the image is carved very little can be changed. It can take days or weeks just to carve one block. I started block printing to be able to produce something handmade but could be reproduced a number of times.

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Make any sense? Here is a longer more detailed version:


Block Printing is one of the oldest types of printmaking that originated in Asia. The orgin of this style began with wood but can also be made with linoleum(linocut), Styrofoam or other mediums. What is printmaking you ask? Printmaking in general is creating “master plate” from which multiple images are made with the use of ink and pressure.

There are four our main types of printmaking.  Some may be familiar some not so much.


-Relief (“raised surface” Ink stays on top of plate. Such as Woodcut and Letterpress)

-Intaglio (“cut surface” Ink goes down inside of plate. Such as Etching)

-Planography (“flat surface” Ink stays level on the plate. Such as Lithography stone or  metal using the reaction of grease vs. water)

-Serigraphy (“block-out surface“ Ink is sectioned off in the plate. Such as Silkscreen)

Relief printing is a technique for producing patterns by means of carving a design into a type of block. The raised part (part left un-carved) is coated with ink and then able to print the design on fabric or paper. Images that are printed with this technique are typically much bolder than other types of printmaking. Since the blocks are carved by hand, there is often less detail and more texture to the prints. Typically block printing is done by hand, so the ink sits on the surface adding a raised texture to the paper unlike in letterpress, where it is typically indented into the paper with a press.

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Block printing is one of the easiest forms of printing to try if you are interested. A press isn’t needed and most supplies are easy to find.


Everyone varies in technique but here are the basics:

1. DESIGN: Starting with a sketch then transfer sketch unto a block. The printed image will be the reverse of what is on the block.

2. CUT: Using various tools made for carving, carve away the parts that will be the without ink Producing positive and negative space.

3. INK: Ink is rolled out with a brayer making a thin sheet of ink on a surface such as glass, and then spread onto the block. The ink will stick to the parts that were un-carved.

4. PRESS: Taking a piece of paper and laying it carefully on top of the block and pressing with a barren or a preferred tool such as a wooden spoon to transfer ink onto the paper.

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Is there anything about this job I hate? Yes, cleaning up is one. Taking photographs for listings is another. Its not that I don’t like photography.. I love it! I just really really do not like taking the still shots. Its just so much pressure! There are a couple other factors that play into this… I take my photos with a cracked iPhone.  I don’t actually own a computer that works, so I am about town on a daily basis being a computer nomad, and I haven’t figured out the right place to take the pics. Block prints I have found are difficult to photograph. I am picky about the light and the color being correct. The studio is a no go so far. An iPhone taking photos requires light, so off to the outdoors I go! The weather has to be perfect… no wind, the perfect shade from the sun, the perfect amount of sun being around, and a clean dry place to hang or lay the print. 
However, there is a little happiness in this sad sob story of mine. Texture. To make up for my not-so-perfect photographing conditions I have had to get creative in my choice of spots, which has (in my mind) turned out to be an interesting collage of textures. 
Part of me wants these perfect photographs I see out there on Etsy and ScoutMob and I start to get down on myself. Then, today when I was walking random streets of downtown Nashville (and people are staring at the crazy girl taking photographs on the sidewalk) I remember I’m not perfect myself. I have a lot of textures, layers, and change within myself and do what I have to do to get things done. Maybe all of that is supposed to just show through my work.. even in my still shots. If was waiting for my perfection to show up…. I would never let myself step out and show my work. 



Interview with Sarah of Block21 and monster in the closet

Today starts my Fellow Artist Series ! I have chosen to start with one of my personal favorite block printers: Sarah, the owner of monster in the closet  and her newest addition Block21 Prints. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and two kiddos.
I don’t actually know Sarah “personally”, we somehow connected on Instagram, and she was the winner of one of my give-a-ways! I love her monster in the closet Alphabet Prints (esp E is for Emu) and her recent Block21 Print  Mason Jar Series (which the print shown to the right is a future purchase of mine for my kitchen!)
From what I know of Sarah she is the kind of person I could go grab a coffee with and talk shop like… ”I am working on____ next what do you think? and ”My kid did _____ this morning can you believe it!” and such things as ”Wanna compare carving knife scars?” Maybe someday, but for now I got to have an up close and personal virtual chat. Here is a little bit about who the gal who loves little monsters:
Describe you current line of creations? What inspired you to start?
My current line of creations are block prints. I’ve always loved stamps and can actually remember getting my first set!  (which I still have!)  I started getting serious about linoleum carving when I was doing my masters of education with a focus on printmaking.  My thesis show was a series of reduction prints with food as the subject.
What makes your process unique?
I’m not so sure my process is unique as relief carving has been done for centuries but I suppose what I bring to it is what every artist does, their own visions and personality.
Were you always creative as kid, or did you find it later in life? 
I’ve always been creative, I think that has always been my strength. My technical skills have grown and improved dramatically over the years. I have never been that kid in class that could draw like crazy… I’ve worked really hard at it. 
What is your favorite style of art and why?
Honestly, I don’t know if I can choose just one style of art…I love relief prints, obviously…I’m a big fan of Hokusai and Japanese prints but I love all kinds of art.  I tend to veer towards bright and colorful art (Matisse), art with tons of texture (van Gogh) but I also seriously love children’s book illustrations.
How do you come about your ideas? Is there anything particular that inspires you?
Ideas come from every which direction…my brain never stops.  I get ideas from music, everyday objects and my surroundings, my children and family, my students, famous artworks…you get the idea.
As artist we are tough on ourselves sometimes but we are always proud at least of one thing. What is your favorite piece you’ve ever made and why?
One of my favorite pieces is a reduction print I created of an Artichoke for my masters show.  It was created on a piece of linoleum 18” X 24” and took me a long time and lots of sweat and swearing but in the end I was (and still am) so incredibly proud of myself.  It seemed that it was the artwork that allowed myself permission to call myself an artist.
That is really amazing! I am actually scared of trying a reduction print it I know what kind of work goes into it. You did a beautiful job. 

Whatʼs the best compliment you have received about your work?
I seriously appreciate any compliment about my works.  I think some of the best compliments come from my mom and my husband because I know they will be totally honest with me and not say nice things just because they think they should.  
Describe your work space. 
An organized chaos


What is a typical day in your life? Up early, get myself and kiddos out of the house, teach 6th, 7th and 8th graders art, pick up my children from school, art if the day allows, put kids to bed, fall asleep on the couch!  It’s always crazy and I’m quite tired by the end of the day.  I wish I had more energy to accomplish work at night but it’s just not a reality.  I do a lot of work on weekends.  
Wow! you seem like a busy gal! Do you have any other interests or hobbies other than your art we have discussed?
I’ve always loved sports and am a big baseball fan…go Red Sox!  We have a great bunch of friends and lots of family close by so we are always hanging out and having fun.  I enjoy reading, sewing and taking photos.
So who are some of your favorite fellow artist and why? (click to view their work)
I can’t just pick a few!  ::Heehee…::

Marianne Johansen-Ellis has two fabulous Etsy shops: Art Can Be Fun & Mariann Johansen Ellis her prints are so cool and technically awesome.  I love her work! 

Aidan of Bubbledog has such adorable and well made items!  I have numerous and continue to shop there! 

Zoe Badger of Zeebede prints has amazing linocuts! 

I LOVE strawberry luna’s work! It is so colorful, fun and I would love any and all of them up in my house!

My new favorite is Fiona Humphrey’s work…I just received one of her prints and holy guacamole it’s amazing!

And you know I love your shop 30 Silent Mockingbirds!

 Thanks Sarah! Now I have 6 more favorite artist and I’m going to have to get more walls! 

So I can see that from your favorite artist not only do you make prints you LOVE prints! Is block printing your full time job, or do you have a job out-of-studio?
This is not my full time job, I am a full time public school art teacher!

Would you ever want to be a full time printmaker? 
Honestly, I don’t know if I’d want it to be my full time job…artistically absolutely!  Financially and stability wise, it scares me.
I can understand that! I have the same feeling! With that said I know there must be challenges you face doing both jobs. Do you have any and if so, what are they?
The biggest challenge in doing my art as a business is time…not enough time!!  I find it difficult to do something start to finish.  It’s frustrating and at times I feel detrimental.  I wish I had more time to do research, advertise, get my art out there more etc…
My other challenge is “knowing” the business.  I’m constantly learning, trying to be efficient and find ways to sell my art.
I love everything you have said here and its been so nice getting to know you! In closing, I would love to know what the future holds. What are some goals are you trying to accomplish right now? 
Goals?  I have lists of them!  My main goal is “get your art out there in 2013” and within that I have smaller goals.  I’m trying to be more social media savvy, research and participate in more “calls for art,” be my own advocate, broaden my line while keeping my own style and am just trying to always make more art. I also really want to write, illustrate and publish a children’s book.  I have start to write and illustrate one but am not finished and am not sure of the whole publishing process.


Thanks so much for sharing what you do and answering all of my tough questions! I cant wait to share it with the world! 
Happy to do it!  Thanks for asking me!

So there you have it! Sarah of monster in the closet and Block21 Prints! Click to follow links to her Etsy shops monster in the closet & Block21 to purchase her art. Also, “Like’ her Facebook page to keep updated on her work. She can also be followed onPinterest, Twitter, Instagram. Check out her  Blog that has great how tos and behind the scenes post and Website!